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Practicing Assessing Marital Risk:

Since the marital or adult-to-adult relationship is usually the key to understanding the level of risk within your family, your ability to understand and assess the three dimensions of that relationship is critical. The vignette below is divided into three sections to make it easier to see the friendship, partnership, and lover dimensions. Using the signs in Figure Three, see if you can pinpoint the risk points in the vignette. What behavior, attitudes, and values are putting the family at risk?

Friends:  You used to be happy. You felt good about your marriage and knew it was a safe and predictable haven. You knew what kind of reactions you were going to get and how things would go. It was nice.

Your world was not always rosy; but you could handle it. When things were not going well or turned out badly, you talked about it. You worked it out. Now everything gets you down and you cannot snap out of it. It has even gotten to where you do not care how you look. You see no reason to take the time and bother to take care of yourself, especially around home. It is all too much. It hurts too much to try to care, if you could anymore.

It was like you could read each other's minds. You just knew. That was then. Now you have no idea. You are not sure what you think, how you feel. Talking and trying to explain are a waste of breath.

You are usually spontaneous and ready for about anything. At least you used to be. You were a lot of fun. Now, even you do not enjoy you. Being you is no fun; and being around you is not something anyone would choose. Sure you are in a bad mood and hard to live with. Why wouldn't you be? The good times are gone; and you are not going to pretend they are not.

You put on a good show of being relaxed and easy-going for friends and outsiders. Do you have them fooled? Inside you are tied up in knots. At home you are always on edge. You could cut the tension with a knife. You do not even go through the motions of caring about each other's feelings or acting like you care what is being said. It just does not matter any more. It is not important.

Hurting each other's feelings has become an everyday thing, several times a day. When you are not cared about, you quit caring. You used to try to be reasonable and were ready to understand, give the benefit of the doubt. Not anymore, never again.

You were so patient, so understanding. You listened, cared, and were always there. Look what it got you. You were the one who tried. Who was the first to say, "I'm sorry?" Who always tried to fix things or smooth them over? Who always made the effort?

Did you point fingers and accuse? Did you threaten to walk out every time you did not get your way? Did you act like what you wanted was all that matters? No you did not. You tried to help, tried to make things better. At least you worked on your marriage.

Okay, maybe you were not always the one to try or the one to give in. You are not perfect but at least you were not the one who let arguments go on and on. At least you fought fair. You did not just yell louder and get more angry and say any hurtful thing you could think of. You were trying to solve problems, not just doing anything to hurt. At least you tried to save your marriage. At least you hung in there. You are not the one who stopped trying.

It is hard to say when you lost the faith, stopped believing it would work. It just happened. You handled the ups-and-downs for a long time. You kept hoping. Things would get bad and then they would get better for a while. It got to where the bad times were really bad and the good times never came. Whatever you had was gone and is not coming back.

It is one of those things. You hear it all the time. You grew apart. No, it was not like that at all. It did not just happen. You knew it would not stay like it was when you were dating, not even like when you were first married. Anyone who thinks it can is a fool. Every relationship changes. Shit happens and the world goes on. You have to be mature enough to handle it. You are mature enough but cannot make it work by yourself. It takes two to make a marriage and you had to do it by yourself. It cannot be all fun and games. Things change. People change. You changed.

You could not be the only one who changed. You thought you would grow and change together. You are not the same as you were when you were first married. You have changed a lot. You are older and have responsibilities. You have less time for fun and know what your priorities are, what they have to be.

You have devoted yourself to your family. You have sacrificed a lot. You used to have a lot of friends too. You had things to do, places to go, and many interests. You gave them up when you got married. That is how it is supposed to be. You give one hundred percent. It seems like all you do is work and try to take care of your family. You are always there for them. Look what it got you. You are left trying and caring by yourself. Now you have no friends, no interests other than your family, and no one to share it with. Why you? You thought the deal was to stick it out. For you, it was a commitment. You should have seen it coming. You held up your end but should have seen it coming.

You see now it started with little things. A little complaint here, a little criticism there, a little less warmth now, a little less interest then and it was gone, if it was ever there. You wonder. When did you stop trying quite so hard? When did you stop depending quite so much on the relationship? When did you start trying to boss each other around and tell each other what to do, how to be? When did you lose the give-and-take? When did you stop having time for each other, stop finding time to play? When did you start talking about who was doing the most, trying the hardest? When did you start blowing up over every little thing? When did you lose your best friend?

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Partners:  You used to be a team. You would talk and decide what was important, what your priorities were. When one of you felt strongly about something, the other would support it, try hard to make it work. If something came up, one of you would go ahead and take care of it. You knew what the other would do, would want. It was automatic.

You were always up-front with each other about what you thought about things and were open to the other's ideas and opinions. You did not always agree but it worked. If there were problems, you worked them out and did not blame or accuse or threaten. You were a team; and you always found a solution you both could live with.

It had a lot to do with trust and faith. Neither of you went off half-cocked or did something on your own that would mess things up. You each knew what you could and could not do; you knew what your rights were. When did your rights become an issue? You never thought it would get to where you would argue about who had a right to do what. You are not a team any more. You are just both looking out for number one. It may sound a little crude; but you both spend most of your time wondering who is going to screw whom.

You were not different than any other couple. Sure, you had money problems once in a while. You both owned your problems. You were in it together. You each did what you could to carry your share of the load. It was hard sometimes; but you each had your responsibilities and were responsible people. At least that is how you thought it was.

When did it get so one sided? When did the problems become your fault and fixing them your job? When did you stop being a team? Why were you the one who was supposed to save money, do without, and make ends meet? It looked like you let the bills get out of hand all by yourself. On top of that, you were accused of being lazy and not doing your share to get out of the mess. Things were going down the tube thanks to you, or so you kept being told.

Okay, you are not much of a money manager. You are too quick to charge things and do not worry much about how you will pay if there is something you really want. If you need it, you need it. Life is too short to always do without. You cannot be expected to only work and never have any fun. You do not see anyone else in your family doing without, not to point any fingers at the only other so called adult around. You did not get into this mess by yourself.

You cannot help it if you like nice things. That is how you are and you are not going to change. You are not going to cut corners while someone else acts like money grows on trees. You have talked about the problems and about what needs to happen. It all sounds good. It is just not that easy. So what if you agreed to watch your pennies for a while. It was not you who got the two of you into this situation anyway. You are not going to be the one to sacrifice, not by yourself.

You know what needs to happen. You have talked and pleaded until you are blue in the face. Why should you care. You have pinched pennies and done without, but no more. Money goes out like water through a sieve. If you did not have to do it all, it would work. It is not fair. It is just not fair.

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Lovers:  It was magic. You and your spouse each knew what the other wanted, how to scratch the itch, so to speak. It was always new, always the first time. There were no rules. You were both ready, whenever, wherever, for whatever. It was gentle, exciting, tender, and wild. Love making was passion at its best and most intense.

You were considerate of each other's feelings, each other's needs, each other's preferences. No one was in charge, no one gave more or got less. It was not that kind of thing anyway. It was magic; and you took turns being the magician.

The magic did not stay the same. It changed and matured as your marriage matured. Neither of you had any problem with the change; the change was itself exciting and stimulating. It assured love making never got boring. You never knew what to expect. You just knew it would be fun and exciting.

You do not know quite how or when you got into the affair, when you went over the line, when you broke the faith with your spouse. It was just one of those things. One thing led to another and then to another. It was not something you planned or thought about. It was just something you could not control, did not want to control. You had never thought about someone making a special effort to love you in the special way you wanted. You never thought about someone putting you and your pleasure first. It was like someone making love to you without any thought you would return the gesture.

There was a sexual attraction with your new lover you had never felt before. You had been turned-on; but in that relationship, you were the attraction. You did not have to read anyone's mind and wonder how you were doing. You did not have to wait and hope for what you wanted. You were asked. You only needed to say what you wanted and you were immediately satisfied.

There was no concern about the bills, the children, or whether the car got fixed. There were not other things to interfere or take away from the love making. Love making within your marriage is great; at least you thought it was great. This was different, though, better, more honest.

Sure, you thought about sex with your new lover and looked forward to it. You thought about little else, still think about little else. There was a lot more to the relationship than sex, though. If it had only been for sex, you would have wanted no part of it. The two of you could talk, really understand each other. You were accepted and understood in ways you did not know were possible. No, it was not just sex.

You were more easily sexually aroused than you would have believed. Sex was so easy and natural. You were better than ever. You only had to experience the response you got to know how good it was, how good you were.

There were no demands, no expectations. Neither of you did anything you were not comfortable with or did not want to do. Your relationship was open and free. The relationship was the most important thing. It was much more important than sex. Sex was no more than your way of communicating.

It was not like you were doing anything really wrong. You were faithful to your spouse in an odd sort of way. Your lover understood this, although you were not so well-understood at home. Even though you know the relationship is over, you are not sorry. You only feel badly about the hurt it has caused. It is not something you did on purpose. You want it to be put in the past.

Your spouse has tried to forgive you, although there is really little to forgive. Anyway, you think it should not be brought up any more. You do not bring up past lovers and want the same consideration. Accusing and bringing up the past does neither of you any good. You need to get on with your marriage, your life together now. The whole thing is confusing. It is hard to sort out the relationships. You wish you could just stop and start over again.

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Please send comments or questions to Gary A. Crow, Ph.D. GAC@GaryCrow.net